We put 10 of the most common nutrition questions to Prof Grant Schofield and Dr Caryn Zinn. Here’s question 7: Do stress and sleep affect what and how we eat?
Undoubtedly, these are two of the most untalked about, unrecognised behaviours in having a healthy life. Keeping your stress under control and having a good night’s sleep are both important, because they affect hormonal control and the gut microbes in your body.
We know that a good night’s sleep makes you more insulin-sensitive. The exact same meal will have a profoundly different effect on your blood glucose and your blood insulin when you’ve had a good night’s sleep, as opposed to when you haven’t had enough sleep. This will subsequently affect your nutrition behaviours. If your insulin is up and your glucose is up, you’ll be more likely to eat again and continue eating and be dysregulated.
A poor night’s sleep affects the motility of your gut, makes you more constipated. A poor night’s sleep and high-stress affect the microbes in your gut – exactly how that works, we don’t fully understand yet.
Sleep and stress are under-acknowledged as huge contributors to what and how you eat, but also achieving your goals. For example, in clinic we see people who are doing absolutely everything they need to do for weight loss, but not getting the results. When asked, “Well, what else is going on?”, we often uncover this whole area about sleep disturbances, and not getting enough sleep, and also stress. And we’re not necessarily talking about that acute stress of, “Oh, I’m so busy. I’ve got a really busy day”. But it’s more that chronic, underlying stress. Also, if you are anxious and your hypothalamic pituitary axis feeds into every other part of your body, that makes it more difficult to lose weight and keep it off, long-term.
Prof Grant Schofield and Dr Caryn Zinn are the lead instructors in the Certificate in Advanced Nutrition.